By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Hines Ward: Ironman
Thirteen hours, eight minutes and 15 seconds. That’s how long former NFL player/Dancing with the Stars/reality show competitor Hines Ward took to complete the grueling Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii, in October. Ward trained for eight months with the help of former Ironman champion Paula Newby Fraser.
Ward admitted that he never was a swimmer, yet navigated the 2.4-mile swim course ahead of his goal time, fought through the tough 112-mile bike ride despite 20 mph headwinds, and gutted through the 26.2-mile marathon to finish. Ward said he had never run more than a mile before he began training for the Ironman. In fact, he only ran up to 20 miles while training, and did not hit mile 21 until he was in the race.
Ward, who is half Korean, participated on behalf of his sponsor, Chocolate Milk. Ward is a spokesman for Chocolate Milk and even drank it as part of his recovery after crossing the finish line.
So, the big question for Ward: Which was harder, learning how to dance on TV in front of millions of people, or putting your body through 13 hours of grueling exercise?
Uehara blogs during World Series
Japanese relief pitcher Koji Uehara won a World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox last month and he let his followers in his native Japan know all about it. Uehara blogs in Japanese about behind-the-scenes happenings he sees as a relief pitcher for the Red Sox. In contrast to his serious demeanor on the mound, Uehara is humorous in describing interactions with his teammates, and also quite candid. Posting about his save in game three of the World Series, Uehara wrote, “To be honest, I feel like throwing up.”
Uehara’s blog gives his fans in Japan great insight into how he feels and what he goes through as a pitcher for the Red Sox. For him, it’s probably like writing a letter home, the way he conveys his experiences and how he feels when playing.
Uehara, 38, had the best season of his career and was a major force in the 2013 playoffs. In the 13 playoff games he pitched, he saved seven, and struck out 16 batters.
The good news is that Uehara helped the Red Sox win the World Series. The bad news, for most of us, is that he doesn’t blog in English.
After pitching a no-hitter this season, the San Francisco Giants decided to retain pitcher Tim Lincecum, former University of Washington alum and Kent native. Lincecum, who is part Filipino, was to be a free agent at season’s end but agreed to stay in the Bay Area, signing a two-year/$35 million contract with the Giants. He’s been with San Francisco ever since he was drafted. The 29-year-old has had great success with the Giants, and while many Mariners fans had hoped he would be available this off-season, the Giants made it quite clear that he would not be leaving their organization.
Iwakuma, Darvish chosen as Cy Young finalists
Seattle Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish have been chosen as Cy Young finalists for the American League. Iwakuma and Darvish were two of three finalists that will be announced the week of Nov. 11. The Cy Young award goes to the best pitcher in Major League Baseball in each league.
In his second season in the major leagues, Darvish led the league in strikeouts. He was one of the best pitchers for the Rangers and the reason the team stayed in the playoffs all season. Darvish had two close no-hitters this season — a definite thorn in the side of most batters he faced. With 14 wins, Iwakuma was one of the few bright spots for the Mariners ball club this season, earning a spot in the All Star game.
Linsanity visits Asia
It’s that time of year again: The NBA is back … just not in Seattle. This means we get another chance to talk about Jeremy Lin, who will be undertaking his second season in Houston, Tex. But before the Rockets began their regular season, they went to the first-ever American exhibition in the NBA-crazed Philippines. Outside of the United States, the Philippines has the biggest NBA fanbase on Twitter and Facebook. The global reach of the NBA brought the league to Asia, where fans were eager to see their players compete live.
The Houston Rockets played the Indiana Pacers in Manila in the first of two games. The two teams went on to play in Taipei, Taiwan. In both visits, Lin was the main attraction as fans clamored to see Linsanity in person. In addition, the Golden State Warriors played the Los Angeles Lakers in China as part of their exhibition season.
As for Lin, he initially lost his starting job this year when he was beat out at point guard by Patrick Beverly. This situation was short-lived as Beverley got hurt opening night, putting Lin back in his old job.
Look for Lin to try and step up his game this year as he will be fighting for his starting job and battling opposing defenses.
Coinciding with the beginning of the NBA season, Jeremy Lin’s documentary, “Linsanity” opened in theatres around the country. The documentary began filming Lin when he was playing college basketball at Harvard, covering his family and the uniqueness of being an Asian American basketball player in the NBA. It was remarkable foresight of the filmmakers to recognize Lin’s talent, and to be able to gain the trust of Lin, who let himself be filmed with no idea what the end result would be. For those who missed the documentary in theatres, it should be on DVD and Blu-Ray at the beginning of next year.
Feng wins smog-affected LPGA event
China’s Shanshan Feng won the first Ladies Professional Golfer’s Association held in Beijing in October. It was the second LPGA win of her career, and possibly the last time the LPGA holds an event in Beijing. The tournament was marred by smog delays as the players were affected by the air pollution. Inbee Park, ranked the world’s No. 1 female golfer, finished in third place.
Golf is supposed to be an activity in which players enjoy their surroundings, but, based on reports of smog issues, this did not sound like a place where the golfers could stop and smell the roses.
Japan’s best long-distance runner?
The New York Marathon returned after it was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy last year. One of the elite runners who participated on Nov. 3 was Yuki Kawachi. The 26-year-old Japanese runner is one of the best in the world, although his day job prevents him from training like other elite runners. Kawachi is a high school administrator in Japan and due to his civil service obligations he cannot accept sponsorship money or appearance fees. Many runners train twice a day; Kawachi can only squeeze in one run before work. He also schedules races around work holidays to minimize the number of vacation days he must use.
Despite holding down an office job, Kawachi has an ambitious running schedule. While many top-level runners train for just two or three races a year, the New York Marathon was Kawachi’s ninth race, and he has two more this year. The heavy run schedule has not hurt him — he posted his best marathon run time this year: 2 hours, 8 minutes and 14 seconds.
Nonito Donaire is back
The “Filipino Flash,” Nonito Donaire, is back, after a disappointing loss this past spring and after his first baby came into the world. However, Donaire’s first bout after his time off, against Vic Darchinyan, did not go his way until the ninth round. Losing on all of the judge’s scorecards, Donaire knocked out Darchinyan to come back and win the fight. Afterwards, he celebrated with his newborn son in the ring. It was a bit of a family reunion, as the fight was the first one with Donaire’s father back in his corner. Maybe it was adjusting to fatherhood and recovering after the loss last spring, but Donaire should improve after this win. (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.